How chatty are you with your baby? Communication is an ongoing process in your child's life. Here's why and how you should encourage it from an early age.
Interaction is key
You know how delightful and confusing parenthood can be, both at the same time.
You've probably spent the first weeks just staring at your baby’s adorable face, right?
You’re not the only one.
Once they grow older, their little face can become an endless source of funny expressions, heartwarming smiles and terrible crying. It’s your baby’s way of communicating with you.
How does your baby communicate with you? How often should you talk to them? Marc de Rosnay, Professor of Child Development at the University of Wollongong, tries to answer these and other questions you might have about your baby’s communication process.
Babies don’t have to speak in order to communicate.
This is what your baby’s early communication looks like…
...it is “intimate, sensual and emotional,” according to professor Marc de Rosnay.
“There are all sorts of reasons for that,” he continues. “Loving reasons, or hormones surging through our bodies, the baby being built to suck you into communication. But there’s a really practical reason for this, which is: babies can’t refer to things. They don’t point yet, they can‘t talk about something, they can only exchange what’s going on in real time between you and me until about nine months, until they can start to bring other things into reference.”
It’s important to interact with your baby at their own pace. It will create a strong early communication pattern, helping them to form good communication skills as they develop.
Talk to your baby as often as you can
What happens when you speak to your baby?
Talking to your baby will help them develop their language skills early on. This will also help them understand language much faster. And once they can understand language, they will start developing their own language skills.
Good communication skills mean simply being able to explain what they want and need.
Why talk to your baby if they can’t understand you yet?
Babies are vigilant towards language.
According to Professor de Rosnay, there’s plenty of child development science proving babies understand more than they can speak.
“By the time they’re between 12 and 18 months, they understand a huge amount of language and they’re well on their way to producing language,” he says.
“They’re using gestures, signs, symbols and routines to show they understand language. To get to that point, they need to be exposed to language and they need to have people interacting with them so that they can become rich understanders of language,” explains Professor de Rosnay.
Not all parents talk to their children. Their reasons vary from issues like postnatal depression, a lack of support or domestic violence, to ordinary reasons including their conviction that their babies can’t understand them.
Professor de Rosnay suggests it is a good idea to choose to be the chatty parent for your baby.
Having trouble coming up with conversation ideas? Here are a few suggestions:
The secret is not to overthink it!
- Chat with your partner or friends while nursing your baby. Even though you’re not directly speaking to your baby, they will be busy learning.
- Talk to your baby about whatever you’re doing, whether that’s putting the clothes out on the line, cooking dinner or getting letters out of the mailbox.
- Go out with your friends and let your baby soak up your conversations.
Here’s why Professor de Rosnay thinks this is important: “Babies are pulling out the sounds they need for language,” he says. “They’re observing how communication functions. There’s observational learning and there’s automatic learning of the sound groups of our languages and the porosity of our language.”
Babies need chatty parents and carers around them to properly develop their own language skills.
So start talking!
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